National Guard Members Run Realistic Natural Disaster Drill At Camp Gruber

Wednesday, September 18th 2013, 5:43 pm
By: Craig Day

Members of the Oklahoma National Guard, and others from nearby states, are getting specialized training this week to enable them to better respond to natural disasters.

Wednesday's emergency response exercise was the largest of its kind held in Oklahoma in several years. We went to Camp Gruber to learn more.

The scenario for the exercise is a massive tornado outbreak, with terrorists taking advantage of the disaster to set off a dirty bomb.

With role players, organizers try to provide as much realism as possible.

"The state headquarters has put a lot of attention into making sure that every facet of it is as real as possible. It really adds to it. So, when you roll up on an incident, you're fully prepared, because you've already practiced it here at Camp Gruber," said Lt. Col. Scott Houck.

During the emergency response exercise Army and Air National Guard members worked alongside civilian law enforcement and first responders.

They can identify what worked, and troubleshoot and fix what didn't.

"You have to have relationships with those other agencies, that's the key part," said Sgt. Warren Williams, with the Oklahoma Army National Guard. "We have to know what they can bring to the fight, and they have to know what we can bring to the fight."

Nearly 1,000 Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arkansas guard members are taking part in the drill.

And that doesn't even include the dozens upon dozens of state emergency management leaders and workers with the state health department, first responders and law enforcement agencies--all the groups that would respond if this was an actual emergency.

"When we're better coordinated, and we're better organized, and we've had the opportunity to train together, we're able to reach people that much faster, we're able to provide a much more efficient service to the citizens," said Maj. Heather Arndt, the exercise coordinator.

The exercise is also intended to teach that, during a real disaster like the Moore tornado, to expect the unexpected, and to remain flexible, yet focused.

"All you want to do is help, but you have to take that second and think, 'How am I going to be most helpful?'" Williams said.

"We hope that it never happens, but we're always ready and always capable to do it at a moments notice," Houck said.

The disaster exercise will continue Thursday with a different scenario, but the participants won't be told what those circumstances will be.